a unique musical perspective, intimate voice and prolific treasure-trove
of lyrics, singer-songwriter Brenda Russell proves that a truly
glowing talent only deepens with time. Composer of the classics
"Get Here," "If Only For One Night," and the
Grammy-nominated "Piano In The Dark," Brenda's songwriting
prowess and chameleon-like ability to shift between musical genres
and combine styles trumpeted ovations in 2005 with the opening of
the Tony Award-winning hit Broadway musical The Color Purple--a
show for which she, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray co-wrote the music
and lyrics. Brenda and her co-authors were also nominated as songwriters
for a Grammy this year in the Best Musical Show Album category for
the original cast album.
Since its December 2005
debut, The Color Purple has emerged as a seminal presence on The
Great White Way as one of the 2006's top grossing shows. In 2007
the musical built on its big first year by adding American Idol
winner Fantasia to the Broadway cast taking over the lead role of
Celie from Tony Winner LaChanze and by opening its much-anticipated
touring company in Chicago in April with Michelle Williams of Destiny's
Child in the role of Shug. Fantasia's stage debut garnered unanimous
acclaim from New York theater critics and has created a buzz for
her and show nationwide bringing in busloads of theatergoers from
across the country.
Based on the Pulitzer
Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and presented by Oprah Winfrey,
The Color Purple's story spans a 30-year period in the life of its
female African American protagonist Celie through music that blends
jazz, blues and gospel of the early and mid 1900s with the writers'
pop sensibilities creating a show and soundtrack brimming with emotion,
authenticity and memorable songs.
While composing The Color
Purple, Brenda also wrote, recorded and co-produced a solo album,
Between the Sun and the Moon--released in 2004 on Dome Records,
an R&B-focused label based in the UK. Narada Jazz licensed the
CD for release in the U.S. The album aptly displays her song craft
and nuanced vocals mixing up-tempo grooves with her classic balladry
in a work that satisfied longtime fans while enticing new listeners.
Recorded in both the UK and the U.S., the album includes production
and writing collaborations with such notables as Bluey from Incognito,
Lee Ritenour and Patty Austin.
Her first album since
2000's Paris Rain (Hidden Beach Recordings), Brenda promoted Between
the Sun and the Moon with live performance dates in the U.S. and
Japan, including a 2005 U.S. tour with Norman Brown, Peabo Bryson
and Everette Harp. The first UK single from the set, "Make
You Smile," became a top-five Smooth Jazz hit in that country.
signature style has helped propel a variety of projects. She co-wrote
the song "Justice of the Heart" with Stevie Wonder for
the Denzel Washington movie John Q--a song that Wonder performed.
And her co-composition with Brazilian artist Ivan Lins titled "She
Walks This Earth" was recorded by Sting for the all-star tribute
album called Love Affair: The Music Of Ivan Lins. Sting's inspired
performance earned him a Grammy Award in 2001 for Best Pop Male
Vocal Performance. The stream of artists who call upon Brenda's
talent is formidable. In 2002, Singer Will Downing had a Top 20
Urban radio hit with one of her co-compositions, "Don't You
Talk To Me Like That." That same year, Solomon Burke's critically
acclaimed and Grammy-winning comeback album Don't Give Up On Me
(Fat Possum) featured "None of Us Are Free," co-written
by Brenda, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The three were among an
all-star lineup of songwriters on Burke's recording including Bob
Dylan, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Brian Wilson.
The song was also recorded as a duet by soul legend Sam Moore and
Sting for Moore's highly praised 2006 album Overnight Sensational.
Other superstar artists who have either collaborated with Brenda
or recorded her songs include Babyface, Mary J. Blige, Michael McDonald,
Bow Wow, Janet Jackson, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind & Fire, Ray
Charles, Luther Vandross, Joe Cocker, Roberta Flack, Al Jarreau
and Johnny Mathis.
Born to musical parents
in Brooklyn, New York, Brenda grew up there and in the Canadian
town of Hamilton, Ontario. She encountered her first piano while
singing as a teenager in the Canadian company of the rock musical
Hair in Toronto. Without formal musical education, Brenda says she
worried that she would never be able to write another song after
her first composition. "Then I had a revelation: 'You're not
doing this alone. You are just a channel for this,' Brenda recalls.
"Once I realized that, I was sort of fearless about songwriting.
I thought: 'If that's the way it is, I can write anything.' And
that's the premise I've based my whole writing career on."
In the late 1970s, now
living in Los Angeles, Brenda and her manager began circulating
a demo of her songs. She was signed to Tommy LiPuma's Horizon Records,
and her first single, "So Good, So Right" was released
in 1979. Brenda transferred to A&M Records, where she formed
a bond with label founder Herb Alpert and released Brenda Russell
and Love Life. Her contract was picked up by Warner Bros. for the
1983 album Two Eyes before moving to Sweden, where she wrote tunes
for her A&M return, Get Here. That 1988 album contained the
Grammy-nominated "Piano In The Dark," the gorgeous "Le
Restaurant," and the title cut, which later became an international
hit for Oleta Adams.
After a 1992 Greatest
Hits package and her 1993 set Soul Talkin' (EMI Records), Brenda
took time off to regroup and travel. Continuing to write, produce
and collaborate with other artists, Brenda honed her craft and contributed
tunes to other projects, including albums by Diana Ross, Tina Turner,
Patti LaBelle and the score to How Stella Got Her Groove Back--a
collaboration with the late composer Michel Colombier. She also
wrote and performed two songs in director Barry Levinson's film
As one of the recording
industry's rara avis who found success scaling the musical divides
of rock, pop, R&B, jazz, classical and Latin, and forging them
into a distinct style, Brenda Russell's music is bound by neither
time nor trend as she continues to attract fans around the world.
As evidence, her self-titled debut was re-released on CD by Universal
Records in 2000, and the label, which now owns her A&M catalog,
released Brenda Russell: Ultimate Collection in 2001. In 2002, music
writer David Nathan's Ambassador Soul Classics label reissued Two
Eyes. And in August 2006, while performing in South Africa for the
first time, Brenda was overwhelmed when greeted by several thousand
racially diverse, adoring fans who cheered and sang along with her,
marking the occasion in a way that she will not soon forget.
"I am a citizen
of the world and believe in peace and love to all people. That is
what I write about and what I sing about. It's the motivating force
behind everything I do and the way I live. I want my music to bring